martes, julio 25, 2006

And now for something completely different

So, I have been planning on posting all about my recent trip to Alaska - unfortunately I messed up my router a bit and am currently unable to log on to the Internets from home.


It's not like I haven't had the time ... I had time o'plenty while waiting 7 hours in Sea-Tac for a delayed flight.

I will post about the trip soon - with pictures! And I'll even use short sentences so Alaska Jen and Ms N won't have any attention span issues.

In the mean time, I thought I'd share some parodies of the Mr. Ed theme song that I thought up today after a discussion with Alaska Jen about a problem person ran off on a Star Wars tangent, only to run off again on a 50's TV-show theme song tangent.

Without further ado:

The Force is the Force, of course, of course.
But you can’t conjure the Force, of course.
Unless, of course,
you run a course
with Yoda on your head.

Or how about:

Divorce is divorce, of course, of course.
And you’ll wind up in the courts, of course,
with some remorse –
and crabs, or worse –
if you bring blondes to bed.

domingo, julio 16, 2006

See, Alaska Jen ...

Ranger Tom had time to read my more recent postings; you have enough time to read them, too.

lunes, julio 10, 2006

The Magic of Retrospectacles

Yes, by donning our retrospectacles, we can now see what I would have written these past few weeks had I actually had the time to write. This is in reverse-chronological order, though, so you might want to scroll down and read up.

Start with the best letter to the editor ever.

miércoles, julio 05, 2006

Back To Normal

So, the Don-abee left for the left coast and things are back to normal in New Jersey.

Yeah, right. The government shut down.

Now, normally I’m in favor of the government not working. Read your newspaper sometime, then tell me you want more government.

Didn’t think so.

But the state shut-down in Trenton has put over 80,000 people out of work and shut down the lottery and the casinos. The casinos haven’t shut their doors since they opened them 28 years ago.

The only good that came out of this was the Governor forced the assembly to come into work on July 4. They were facing a shut-down and took the weekend off.

The Gov was elected in November. All of the legislators are up for re-election this fall. Let’s see what happens later this year.

martes, julio 04, 2006

The Chips Are Down

Tomorrow’s the big gub-ment shutdown in New Jersey. Well, actually it started a few days ago, but even though our state rulers are stupid enough to shut the government down over legislative ineptitude, they are smart enough to keep the vacation-related employees on the job through the long July 4 weekend. So today is the last day that “non-essential” employees are working. This includes the casino commissioners, which are required to be on-site for any gambling to take place in Atlantic City.

The first time Ms. N and I went to AC, she won back everything we put into the machines. Last time, I won back everything we put in. This time, once we got to the casino she headed straight to the slots while the Don-abee and I hit the tables.

Now, when I hit the casinos I am not exactly the guy that Donald Trump holds a special room for. First, we are probably never going back to a Trump casino anytime soon. Second, I am more a Lo-Roller. I do enjoy going to the casinos for entertainment purposes, but I also recognize that they don’t pay for those huge buildings, all those lights, and the high-class call girls by giving all the patrons more money than they came in with. No, most dollars that walk in with customers walk out with the Brinks guys. Gambling is not an investment strategy, it is entertainment.

How much am I willing to spend for entertainment? I’ll pass on most movies if it’s not a matinee. In other words, not much.

They now have penny slots, by the way. They don’t actually take pennies, but if you pop in a ten-spot you get 1,000 credits. You can milk a few bucks for quite a while that way. Oh, and the penny slots are never positioned in any of the nice places of the casinos. They are tucked away in remote corners, hidden amongst the janitors’ mops and mob victims. Play the pennies are you are not hanging out with the beautiful people.

OK, I know what you’re saying. Yes, this means that I am getting amusement by pushing a button and watching wheels spin. But, in my defense, after a good spin lights flash and the machine makes beeping noises. Besides, it beats watching the World Cup.

I did win $50 bucks on one spin on the penny slots once. Naturally, thoughts drift to what it would have been had I been on a quarter slot or even a dollar slot. The answer, of course, is nothing. It happened late in the day. I only had money left because I was playing the cheap-ass penny slots with all the other Lo-Rollers. I think I was the only one there who shaved that morning, and some of those women had serious five-o’clock shadow.

So the Don-abee and I hit the tables, which is a bit of a shock for me. The “cheap-ass” tables have a $10 minimum bet. The game we chose was 4-card poker. It’s one bet to ante, another to play. $20 bucks each, I thought … that’s 2,000 pulls at those machines next to the urinals! But I sucked it in and played a hand.

And won! $20 bucks.

I played a bit more (and won a few more times) until my winnings and the initial $20 was gone, but it was fun.

We hit the boardwalk and grabbed a bite to eat at one of the outdoor eateries. “Eatery” is a bit fancy for this place, but we’ll let it go at that. Funny thing was that the place where we ate was run by middle-easterners while the ice cream shop next door was run by Hispanics. Sitting outside, we were treated to battling sound systems – reggaton from the ice cream store and lots of la-la-la stuff from our place.

We went out to the amusement park pier, hoping to play some ski-ball and/or have a go-cart rematch (minus Chapo). After seeing the quality of both (and some storm clouds to the west), we opted to return to the casinos. However, we did see the best sign ever in a place for family entertainment: “Shooting is fun!” (You’ve seen those Drug Free School Zone signs, right? AC has Gun Free School Zone signs. Oy.)

Back in the casinos, the Don-abee and I hit the video poker. Again, I put in $20 and left with … $20. Plus I won $10 on a special scratch-off because I played a machine for 30 minutes. Again, I won back what I put in.
Too bad we can’t say the same for Ms. N.

Back to Work? Good, I Need the Rest

Today was the one day of the Don-abee’s trip that I couldn’t take off from work. It’s the first business day of the month and I am an accountant, after all. Month-end close is only superceded in importance by year-end close. Presence is mandatory. At month-end, vacations and personal days are off the table, at year-end you wheel in the iron lung if that’s what it takes. Then again, with all the walking we’ve done lately, it was nice to have a day off my feet.

The Don-abee took the day to explore Philly. He rode in with me, and then headed off with one final request … “Show me where Pat’s Steaks is on the map one last time.”

Afterwards we walked (what else?) down to Chinatown for dinner, then headed back to University City to go see Superman Returns. As far as Superman shows go, this one was pretty good. I mean, Lois sucked, but Kevin Spacey is a great Lex Luthor. So, there were some areas where they took the suspension of disbelief a bit far, but hey, it’s Hollywood.

There was one change that pissed me off, however. Remember how Superman stands for truth, justice, and the American way? Not anymore! The American way was yadda-yadda’d out. Truth, justice, and all that stuff? You nutless pinko bastards in Hollywood, what the hell is wrong with you?

lunes, julio 03, 2006

Construction and Destruction

The Don-abee and I headed up to my ex-brother-in-law’s house to help him get ready for his new arrivals. His wife is on bed-rest because his twin babies are trying to escape from the womb well before their time. As a result, his expected plan of having the nursery ready by September got a bit of a kick. They’ve pretty much given up on the original October due date and are now hoping the kids wait at least until August.

Ebil (get it?) lives on the opposite side of Philly out beyond the suburbs. There’s a lot of farmland, some Amish, and the Limerick nuclear power plant. Oh, and the best Wal-Mart in the area. They’ve got steak. Steak? Wal-Mart? Yeah, it boggles the mind.

Speaking of steak, Ebil repaid us for our help with the nursery by making dinner. It was a veg-free meal – steak, sausage, and chicken. The only non-meat was the bun for the sausage. Now that’s eatin’!

On the way back, we wound up running along the front of a pretty good storm. There were high winds, thunder, lighting, small branches being knocked off trees, and rain so thick that you could blow bubbles in the air. At one point I swear a saw a farmhouse blow by. The storm was blowing through at 40 miles per hour, but because of the angle of the road we were at the front for quite a while. Finally the road turned and we outran the weather. About 10 minutes after we got inside, it blew through my town. This was the Don-abee’s first major East Coast storm. I think he was impressed.

domingo, julio 02, 2006

Oh, Now I Get It!

Just as feeling was starting to return to our feet after Friday’s walking tour, we headed up to Brooklyn for a baseball game on Coney Island. Coney Island is the home of the Cyclone, one of the most famous roller coasters in America. It is also the home of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.

Before Brooklyn, though, we had to stop by a Jersey landmark. A bit north of Giants’ Stadium is the town of Lodi, NJ. And right off Route 17 is an otherwise non-descript strip club. Yes, Sopranos fans – the Bada Bing! Ms N is not so much of a patron of the arts as the Don-abee and I, so we didn’t actually go in. But we did get some pictures of the outside of the place.

We headed into Williamsburg to get Ms. N’s cousin Tippy and her boyfriend Chapo. (By the way … one of these people actually goes by the name I’ve used.) Chapo wasn’t there yet, but he said he’d meet us at the game, so we headed down to Coney Island.

Coney Island is not a place you want to drive to, and not just because the subway takes you right there. And it’s not because of traffic, either. Parking sucks ass.

We arrived at the game an hour early; I made it to my seat just before the opening pitch. In the mean time, I almost got rammed by a police car and exchanged obscenities in several languages. We found a lot near the stadium where we could park for $20. I didn’t know how much would be left of my car when we returned, but parking is parking.

Our seats were in the bleachers in right field. The seats were down low and very close to the exit to the concessions, which means throughout the game people were walking in front of us to get food or go pee. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with this. But the folks behind us …

I can’t help but hear this guy behind me drone on and on about the people constantly walking back and forth. “Oh, geez, this is why I watch the game at home on TV.” “What, did these people come to watch the game or eat?” “Are these people ever going to sit the hell down?” “I can’t see the game with all these people walking by.” Finally, the little girl sitting behind us sternly states “Will you stop it Mom, you’re embarrassing us!”


(Sorry, Ms. CVW, I may need to steal some nicknames. Horseface and Flat-tits come to mind. Oh wait, never mind – I’ve got one.)

The guy behind us was actually a woman. Seabiscuit was not much of a looker, but what she lacked in attractiveness she more than made up for in offensiveness. And I almost started to feel for the daughter. This was a truly embarrassing mother, after all. Then I heard, “Where’s my freaking teddy bear?”

Oh, this is a family of winners. It was Seabiscuit, Satanna, and Gramps. I couldn’t tell if he was a father, grandfather, or just some old guy they’ve been holding hostage.

Meanwhile, a crazy Cubano was sitting at the end of our row. At exciting moments in the game he’d blow a whistle attached to his key chain. At other times, he’d sing to himself. I think he would have enjoyed the game whether or not the game was actually going on.

In front of us were some genuine baseball fans who were there to, of all things, watch a baseball game. Wierdos.

Next to them were some scout parents. The kids were all sitting together several rows away. These parents, two dads and a den-mother, were sitting down with us just for our amusement, I’m sure. She was the loud one. When she left for a bite to eat (drawing another whinny and neigh from Seabiscuit), the one dad turned to the other and said “So you’re not an alcoholic yet? I figured after being married to Kathy you’d have a problem by now.”

The Don-abee had been to New York before, but only the touristy areas of Manhattan. This was his first time sitting amongst the natives in their natural habitat. Somewhere around the third inning, he leans over and says to me, “Seinfeld makes so much more sense now.”

Seabiscuit still wouldn’t shut up, and her daughter was getting more and more irritated with this. At one point the girl finally lost it. “Mom, if you don’t stop it I’ll kick you! Oh, I am in such a mood right now!” My thoughts immediately turned to my ex.

Ms. N just sat there. “I am in hell now,” she said.

Finally, in the fifth inning, Seabiscuit left on her own. Ms N turned to the Don-abee and apologized profusely on behalf of all New Yorkers. A few minutes later Gramps turned to Satanna and said “we may want to find new seats, just in case she comes back.”

After the game we headed out to the boardwalk. Two things stick out about Coney Island Beach. First, I have never seen so many trash cans on any beach. They were positioned across the sand no further than ten feet apart in any direction. Second, I have never seen so much trash on the sand at any beach. How all these people could spend all day sitting amongst a forest of trash cans and still drop their cans and wrappers on the ground astounds me. And yet there were still families with kids out in the water. Oy.

We hit the go-carts. Tippy and Ms. N stayed safely outside the fence, Chapo, the Don-abee, and I had a race to the death. We all took are cars, then I found out an unpleasant reality – I am too fat for go-carting. I had to take a two-person cart. And, in the nations of the world theme, I had to give up my favorite Germany for China. Why did they make China the fat car?

New Yorkers are amazingly good at go-carts – perhaps because that is what driving is like in the city. We were nicking bumpers like real cabbies, it was great!

Chapo knows somebody everywhere he goes. While we were on the boardwalk, Chapo ran into someone. At the go-carts, Chapo ran into someone. At the other rides, Chapo ran into someone. I find New York amazing because of the sheer quantity of strangers. They may be strange, but Chapo apparently knows them all.

One white-knuckle drive down the BQE later, we dropped off Tippy and Chapo in Williamsburg and headed back to South Jersey. Another long-ass day of vacation.

sábado, julio 01, 2006

The Best Government Money Can Buy

Day Two was the first full day here on the East Coast for the Don-abee. We caught an early train and headed off to Washington, DC. If you are ever visiting DC, I strongly suggest you contact your Congressman before you go. One of the things they’ll do – even without a campaign contribution – is lend you a staff member for a few hours to give you a guided tour of the U. S. Capitol. I live in New Jersey’s first congressional district, home of Representative Rob Andrews, the first Democrat I ever voted for.

We arrived two hours before our scheduled tour time, so we did some sightseeing first. DC is a good walking city – all the more so given that the cabs are priced for lobbyists with expense accounts. We had more time than money, so we walked.

Union Station is just a few blocks from the Capitol, which is right across the street from the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. On the west side of the Capitol is the Mall which is straddled by the Smithsonian museums down to the Washington Monument. South of the Monument is the Jefferson Memorial; north of it is the White House. Continue down the Mall and you get to the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Then comes the Potomac and Arlington.

In those first two hours, we walked past the Court, the Capitol, found some of the Smithsonians we wanted to see later, then to King George III’s castle, and then back to Andrews’ office.

There are 435 Representatives in the House and every one of them gets an office with a window. As such, there are three big buildings next to the Capitol just for them. And while it takes X-rays and a body cavity search to get in to those buildings, once you’re in you’re on your own trying to find the right office. The Don-abee and I got lost and I came as close as ever to becoming a guest of the Capitol Police at that point.

Quick aside: I consider myself to be more libertarian than anything else. I usually side Republican for fiscal reasons, but I see the Religious Right as an affront to the concept of individual liberty and as such can be inclined to support the Democrats in certain cases. At present, I would like to see the tri-fecta broken up; I want at least one house in Congress switch sides in this year’s election. For this to happen, I think the Dems need to entice the moderates who voted Republican in 2004, not cater to the hard left who would never vote Republican if their lives counted on it.

The Don-abee and I were discussing this as we were lost in the sea of House office suites. A guy dressed in a maintenance-type uniform was pushing a cart full of notebooks when we walked past the office of Rep. Murtha of Pennsylvania. He and Sen. John Kerry are at the center of the cut-and-run debate. His stance is very popular on the left, not so much in the center or right.

I turn to the Don-abee and say “Ooh, Murtha. If the Democrats want to take the House this year, that’s someone they need to shut up.” The guy pushing the cart slowed down just a bit and turned, then gave me the stink eye. It was then that I realized that talk of silencing certain politicians is probably not well received in their own office building. While I meant that the party leaders should keep him out of the press, it could easily be thought to mean he should be silenced by less civil means.

I added some quick clarification comments about frightening the moderates away, and he went back to pushing his cart. But I kept wondering when someone in a suit was going to ask us to step this way.

Our staff tour was led by an intern – a young attractive poly-sci major working with Andrews for the summer. I could quickly see that the Don-abee was awestruck – he refused to talk throughout the entire tour. She gave us a great tour and answered every question that we – well, I – had.

After the Capitol, we did the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We were going to see the American History Museum, but that was closed due to the flooding earlier in the week. We then went to the Natural History Museum to see the Hope Diamond. “I thought it would be bigger than that,” said the Don-abee. I guess you can’t please everyone. The bug zoo at the Natural History Museum smelled like some hard core chemicals had been released. Either a kid threw up on the carpet or something that had to be killed quickly escaped from its cage.

We then walked the memorial circuit, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, and Lincoln. It was atop the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Washington Monument and Mall, staring at the Capitol in all its glory that it all sunk in.

“Fuck it,” I said. “We’ve been walking for eight hours. Let’s take a cab back.”

On the train ride back to Philadelphia, we wound up sharing a table with a former Assistant Secretary of Transportation under the first President Bush. He was originally hired into the Reagan administration by then Vice President-elect Bush. He helped oversee airline deregulation, the sudden turnover of air traffic controllers, and was a voting member of the Amtrak board. It was two hours of very interesting conversation.

Once back in Philly, we picked up Ms N (she had to work that day … ha!) and headed down to South Street for cheesesteaks at Jim’s Steaks.